I know I just posted blog entry already this week, but when ideas pop up, it's time to write.
I have had this song on my mind lately and can't shake it. It is "Letter to Me" by Brad Paisley. The song is about him going back in time and writing himself a letter at 17, telling himself all of the things he needs to know about his future which is unfolding. The song always leaves me teary-eyed and feeling nostalgic. Since the song has been playing on a loop in my head, I have been thinking about things I would say to myself in a letter if I could go back in time. My priority would be to reassure myself that everything is going to turn out fine, during those times of intense suffering and pain. I saw a sign recently which said something like, "My record for surviving bad days so far is 100%." Sometimes that deep dark hole seems so lonely and insurmountable. I would make easing my own pain a priority.
At 17 I didn't have a clue what life was all about, or what I had in store for me. There aren't a lot of things I would change, but I would definitely like to have more insight during some situations. I didn't know that I would have five children, two marriages and a masters degree in social work. I had no idea that money did not come easy and raising a family was hard work. My life at this point is so far away from how I envisioned it as a teenager. It's not all bad and I wouldn't trade most of it for anything.
If I could write a letter to me when I was 17, one of the first things I would tell myself is: have fun. Stop being so uptight. Be yourself. Nobody cares what your hair looks like when you walk across the gym floor from the parking lot to your first class.
The boys who seem to be nerds or beneath your social status are actually really cool guys who do really cool things with their lives after graduation. Don't worry about your reputation. You don't have one. Tell Mike C the real reason why you had to tell him you couldn't go to prom with him. He will understand. Go to prom with Tim M. He dies after graduation and you will always feel bad for saying no. Prom does not equal a relationship.
Hug Tori every single time you see her. Life changes so quickly and she won't always be just a phone call away. Just be there for her. That MIP ticket she got will NOT ruin her life and her mother won't hate you forever. When you drive into that random barn during the rain storm with Tori, Ernie and David, stop worrying about someone finding you. It doesn't happen and you all will have more fun if you will just stop looking over your shoulder.
Your friends in high school will still be around when you are an adult out of school. Cherish those friendships and don't take them for granted. These are the people who know who you really are and share some very fond memories with you. Don't lose track of the other people in your class. When you are middle-aged, you will miss them all and wish you knew where they were.
Tell Derek Cooper that you love him. When he comes by to see you after his brain surgery, spend some more time with him. When he sees you at Pizza Hut and opens the door for you, hug him. Talk to him for a minute. That will be the last time you see him alive.
Do not let that Campbell boy drive home from Bethany that night when you guys go to the bar. He dies in the arms of one of your best friends that night and your lives change forever.
You are not responsible for anyone else's feelings or emotional well-being. If they put you in that position, RUN. People are going to feel what they feel and do what they do and it has absolutely nothing with you, how much you love them, or how much time you spend with them. You can't make someone stable or make them love themselves. This includes your mother.
Go easy on Tyler. He can't help a lot of what he does or says. At night when he can't sleep, don't get mad, just hold him. You will feel so much better and so will he. Encourage his interests more. Play a game with him even if you aren't interested. He's going to be your rock sometimes and he needs to know that you will be his too.
Pay more attention to Colton. Your relationship with him is tenuous and it can go either way. Take more pictures of him. Hug him more often. He feels lost and left out. When Paige comes to you with bruises and red marks saying Colton hit her, she's lying. Colton is going to do ok. Don't leave your facebook page open for him to post statuses about you pooping your pants.
Be more of a parent to Paige and less of a friend. Paige is also going to be ok. When she wants to spend the night at Daisy's, take her aside and have a strong talk with her about drinking, boys, and asking for help. If she calls you to come get her, don't send Colton. Wake up and go yourself. When she asks for a cat, say NO.
Stop working so many hours. At some point in your life, you will not have your job to fall back on, your friends will not be there, and your family will all be strangers because you haven't paid attention to them. You will never make as much money as you think you need and less is more sometimes. You're killing yourself to provide for your family and it's not necessary. Chill out. Bake a cake. Take a day off.
Be prepared for anything you do in your office to be public knowledge.
When you lose your job and you think your life is over, know that now, a year later, you will be happier than you have been in many years. Don't go to the hospital. You know what you need to do. When you see your kids out playing in the leaves in the rain in November, play with them. Don't waste a whole six months crying. Things will work out and they aren't that bad. Enjoy your time with your grandson. He needs you.
Have fun with your husband while his health is good. Spend time with him. Nourish your friendship. Keep him as your best friend. Throw out the alcohol the first time you see him with it. Let him know you love him. Don't leave him in charge of paying your mortgage payments. Insist that he takes time off work when he needs to.
Don't take medication to numb you. You don't need that much medication to sleep and you don't need the addiction that follows. Xanax is not your friend. When that doctor puts you on it, run fast in the other direction. Don't medicate yourself to the point of being unable to enjoy your family when you are home. Your life isn't that bad and it can, and will, get worse. Be prepared. You will survive.
Be nice to your mom, but understand her illness is not yours. You can be a good daughter but still set boundaries. It's ok to disagree with her. She is not well and it may take you years to figure that out. She loves you. Remember that.
When you go to NYC, be sure to visit the 9/11 memorial regardless of time or expense. You will regret not going.
The world is going to change and so are you. Things are not as simple and fun as they seem at 17, but they aren't all that bad. Stop trying to grow up so quickly. The world will change you soon enough and you need to have fun while you are able. You will be bringing children into perilous times and you need to be prepared to equip them to handle the world as it will be, but don't forget to enjoy raising them. True happiness comes from those friends and family who stick with you through all of the things life may throw at you. Never take those relationships for granted. If your gut says not to trust someone, listen to that. Your gut will never be wrong. Don't waste your musical talents. God gave them to you for a reason.
Finally, never doubt that God loves you. There will be times ahead when you will question Him, doubt Him and curse Him, but he is always waiting there to pick you back up. Go to church. Get into that habit. Most of all, make sure you instill these values into your children. Give them the gift of unwavering faith in God and security of knowing He is there no matter what. You owe them that.
While you are writing this letter, your grandson and your best friend's baby will be playing together and being adorable. At 40, your life is not what you expected. It is considerably more wonderful than you can imagine.
Now, go play with those babies. They are growing up even while you are writing this letter.